Richard Branson got his prevebial “fifteen minutes of spaceflight” by launching some fifty miles in the sky and experiencing a “gravity free” environment in his personally outfitted space capsule for an in incredible four minutes. There are a few columnists who are criticizing the very Sir Richard’s achievement, however fleeting it may appear compared to the Appollo or Soyez missions of the US and the CCCP.
But let me offer a bit of perspective. First, there is no way in the near future that privately held firms will replace the vast amount of resources and capital that governments of all flags have to operate missions to our neighbors of the Earth, namely Mars, the moon, and Venus. So NASA does not have to worry about competition comming from Branson, Musk, or Bezos, in terms of travel to otherly worlds, in at least the near term, which would include the lifetimes of the aforementioned Branson, Musk, and Bezos. A more realistic and viable alternative would be a partnership of all three plus the government to have a mission to complete or orbit around the planet of Venus.
Venus has been characterized as “Earth’s sister planet,” although it is far too hot and with no oxygen and an abundance of carbon dioxide to prevent Earthlings from getting anywhere near the planet, let alone land on it. But we could possibly get maybe a million miles from Venus’s surface to perform a “fly around,” just to get a little bit closer to the planet observe the atmosphere. This would be an ambitious undertaking, and maybe not even feasible considering Vensus’s proximity to the sun, making the “mission” even more “impossible.” And this mission, if even remotely considered, would in no way, shape, or form be able to accommodate any “tourist,” as it would take years of planning, rehersal, and preparation on behalfod the public and private sector actors, if they choose to accept such bold undertaking. Currently no such project is being considered, as the attomphere of Venus is made up of at least eighty five percent carbon dioxide, giving the planet an overgrown “greenhouse effect on steriods.”
This fly-by of Venus and the Mars mission, slated for 2030 are not for the faint of heart, rank amatures, or tourists. These missions require astronauts who are in shape and know that they have a good chance that they will not make it bsck to the Earth alive. Money can buy a person lots of things. Going into “space” should not be one of them. Save your money on a gym membership. Use this to get into shape so that one day you can possibly be in a good enough shape to take a space flight that will last a bit longer than a mere fifteen minutes, hovering just over fifty miles from the Earth’s sea level.